By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — If it were up to Traverse City Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn, his team would still be fighting for a Frontier League championship.
But even after a Divisional Series loss to Lake Erie, Langbehn was happy with the way his team performed this year.
“I thought it was another great success,” said Langbehn, who just completed his fifth season on Traverse City’s bench. “I thought we played very well. We were consistent. We weathered the losing streak in the middle of August because we had played so well up until that point. It afforded us the luxury of having a streak where we didn’t play as well. Overall, I was pleased. Just fell a little bit short.”
Traverse City ended the regular season 55-41, just one game out of first place in the East Division. The Beach Bums held the division lead for a good portion of the summer, but struggled in the month of August. They played .500 ball in that month (14-14), brought down by a six-game losing streak.
Still, it took two wins from Lake Erie in the final three-game set of the regular season to determine the division crown. Then, the two teams matched up again in the first-round of the postseason. Holding a 2-1 series lead, Traverse City had leads in each of the final two games of the series but couldn’t finish off the Crushers and were eliminated.
“It was a great series with Lake Erie,” said Langbehn. “We had the lead late in the last two games and we just couldn’t finish. That’s all there is to it.”
Traverse City was seven outs away from advancing to the league’s championship series when it lost a 3-1 Game 4 lead in a 13-3 loss. Similarly, the Beach Bums were ahead 4-2 in Game 5, but couldn’t maintain it after three rain delays put the game on hold — a contest that wasn’t completed until the early-morning hours — in a 5-4 loss.
“It was frustrating, not only for us, but for them too,” Langbehn said of the weather delays. “It was bad. That’s the way it goes sometimes. You’re on a tight schedule and you’ve got to try and get the game in. Did we lose our edge? Maybe. It’s hard to say. We had the guys in place that we wanted to late in the game. We still had our opportunities to win the game. It didn’t happen.”
Among the key cogs for Traverse City this season was veteran first baseman Chase Burch, who was tied for second in the Frontier League with 66 runs batted in. Burch batted .264 and slugged a team-leading 15 homers. Pitcher Scott Dunn led the Frontier League in victories, going 15-1. He became Traverse City’s all-time leader in victories and strikeouts during the season. The other starter to finish the season among the league’s best in victories was Jake Sabol, who won 10 games — which tied for fifth among lead leaders. Taylor Wrenn finished the season with a team-best .288 average in 59 games before he was picked up by the Texas Rangers organization.
Langbehn is under contract through the end of next year, so he’ll return in 2014. But who will be on the Beach Bums roster in 2014 remains unclear, according to Traverse City’s skipper.
“That’s certainly a question that takes months and months to process,” he said. “We’re certainly not in a position to make decisions on our roster a couple of days after the season ends. (Beach Bums Vice President/Director of Baseball Operations) Jason (Wuerfel) and I typically take several weeks to let this season digest, then get back to work and see who is in our plans, who we may or may not need to move or release. Those things take time.”
Langbehn said he doesn’t expect any discussions to begin until at least October, but he said changes will be inevitable.
“It will be a different look,” said Langbehn. “I wouldn’t call it a major overhaul. It’s going to be a new look, that’s for sure. After 2009 we basically blew up the roster, brought two players back. Typically we keep 10-12 guys off each team and I don’t think this year will be a whole lot different than any other year in the past.”